Wrestling: St. Charles East takes down Marmion to win state title
NORMAL -- St. Charles East and Marmion Academy played out an intense two-hour state final Saturday night in downtown Bloomington -- and in the very last match of this 3A championship contest it was AJ Marino who decided this thriller.
The Saints junior came up with the biggest victory of the season for Jason Potter's club when he delivered a 15-5 major decision triumph to break a 24-24 tie to give the Saints a 28-24 win to claim its first dual-team state title in program history.
"As the match began to unfold, it became really clear that it was going to come down to me," began an emotional Marino, who moved here from Texas during the offseason to join a powerhouse Saints program.
"Earlier in our semifinal against Yorkville, I didn't wrestle at all. So I went back to the hotel to collect myself in order to be ready for Marmion knowing that I might be needed when asked to," said Marino.
"(Whatever) plan Marmion had beforehand, they would execute near perfectly, because they never allowed us to open up (while) they stayed the course of slowing us down, wrestling near the edge and causing us to lose our composure at times," said Potter, whose men were forced to come back to beat reigning state champion Mt. Carmel 32-30 in its quarterfinal to position themselves for its run to a state title.
"(But) I thought Jayden (Colon, 43-8) came to the rescue when his major at (145) helped settle us down, and from there, it was just back-and-forth until the very end," said Potter of the 15-5 victory from his state champion.
The Cadets (18-2-0) would take their only lead of the night 21-18 when Sean Scheck beat Austin Barrett 6-1 at 285. But a six-point forfeit given to 106-pound state champion Dom Munaretto (53-0) put the Saints back ahead at 24-21.
Freshman Nicholas Garcia (32-6) drew the Cadets back level at 24-24 with his 6-0 decision at 106 -- setting the stage for heroics by Marino.
"Our guys wrestled with a lot of heart and desire. They could not have competed any better (so) to say I am proud of them would be an understatement," said Cadets coach Anthony Cirricione, whose men would defeat Hersey (36-3) on Friday, then No. 8 Lockport (19-8-0) to advance into the final, who along with the state champs were at the top of the Daily Herald poll all season long.
Both clubs will return most of their starting lineup next season, as will Wauconda, who kept their fans on the edge in their state opener, and third place match with Geneseo.
The Bulldogs would defeat 2A state runner-up Deerfield on Friday, 40-39, in a match that was decided in tiebreaker criteria. Then, incredibly, they would require the same protocol to edge Geneseo (21-3-0) to claim its second state trophy in program history.
"It's kind of crazy that we won those matches (in) criteria. But this team has shown a lot of heart, grit and fight all season long, so I am not surprised of the outcome of both of those wins for us," said Bulldogs junior Zac Johnson (30-8) who was one of 5 who recorded a pin during the Deerfield victory, and another in the Bulldogs' 37-36 win against Geneseo.
In that one-point thriller, Johnson's teammates Lucas Galdine, Nich Cheshier, Sean Christensen and 113-pound state runner-up Nate Randle joined in with pins of their own to help the cause.
"We have the best room that I've ever been around. We all wrestle for each other, and now that we have a third- and second-place state trophy, it seems like we have to come back and win it all," said Johnson, of a team with just one senior in its starting lineup.
York (24-10-0) fell to Yorkville, 43-25 in its dual-team quarterfinal Friday afternoon, and the Dukes will lose three of its five state qualifiers: Sean VanSleet, Evan Grazzini, and Sean Berger, who was fourth a week ago in Champaign at 132.
Also in 3A, MSL champion Hersey (12-5-0) and Lake County power Warren (15-5-0) were both eliminated on Friday, but they too have plenty of starters back to challenge once again next season.
Over in 1A, IC Catholic Prep fell short in its 1A dual-team state quarterfinal on Friday to eventual fourth place Fithian-Oakwood to end its bid for a state trophy after failing to do so in its first trip here in 2018.
Heavyweight state champion Isaiah Gonzalez (19-1), twice a state runner-up, would finish his dazzling career with a pin at 285, but it wasn't enough in its 39-31 loss on Friday afternoon.